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MEA Bulletin

Guest Article

Tuesday, 15 May 2007
 

ENHANCING ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN BIOSAFETY EDUCATION AND TRAINING

By Erie Tamale, CBD Secretariat

Full Article

Short-term ad hoc courses and workshops alone are not sufficient to train the cadre of biosafety professionals and specialists required for the effective implementation of the Protocol. Therefore, the Convention on Biological Diversity has undertaken activities to identify ways and means of promoting long-term formal education and training in biosafety, pursuant to decisions BS III/3 (paragraph 11) and BS-III/11 (paragraphs 16 and 17) of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP). 

Most recently, more than 60 representatives from 56 universities and other institutions involved in biosafety education and training met in the Malaysian capital city (Kuala Lumpur) from 16-18 April 2007, to find ways and means of enhancing long-term formal education and training in biosafety.  The meeting was organised by the CBD Secretariat and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with financial support from the Governments of Switzerland and Denmark. It was hosted by the Government of Malaysia, through the University of Malaya, and was officially opened by Hon. Dato’ Seri Azmi Khalid, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment. The first meeting was held 4-6 October 2004 in Geneva.

Participants shared information on existing biosafety education and training programmes and collaborative initiatives and reviewed the progress made in implementing the recommendations made at the first meeting. They adopted a revised common format for the Compendium of Academically-Accredited Courses and the Biosafety Training Needs Assessment Matrix, both of which will be made available through the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH).

The principal output of the meeting was an agreement to develop regional and sub-regional networks of academic institutions involved in biosafety education and training with a view to fostering collaboration and exchange of information among them, and to pool resources to develop and deliver biosafety academic programmes. As an initial step, each region will embark on collecting information on relevant existing programmes and the key stakeholders involved and make the information available through the BCH. A number of concrete recommendations were also made regarding key issues, guiding principles, strategies and mechanisms that should be considered in the development and delivery of biosafety academic programmes. These included suggestions regarding curriculum development, delivery mechanisms, academic quality control and sustainability of the programmes. Furthermore, participants considered regional and international activities, processes and mechanisms that could facilitate the development and delivery of biosafety academic programmes.

As a follow-up to the meeting, different regions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean) plan to organise regional consultative meetings to discuss, inter alia, options for developing biosafety academic programmes and institutional arrangements for collaboration. These include modalities for the exchange of faculty and the sharing of academic materials, technical information and other resources. The CBD Secretariat was requested to send a notification to all Cartagena Protocol National Focal Points inviting them to initiate discussions with relevant authorities in their countries (e.g. Ministries of Education), in order to help facilitate the establishment of biosafety academic programmes at the national and regional level. Governments were invited to complete and return to the Secretariat the Biosafety Training Needs Assessment Matrix. They were also invited to: (a) work closely with relevant academic institutions in order to develop appropriate biosafety programmes and (b) provide those institutions with funding and other support.
 

 
L-R: Rofina Yasmin Othman, Malaysia; Charles Gbedemah, CBD; Hon. Dato’ Seri Azmi Khalid, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Malaysia; George Tzotzos, UNIDO; Dato Amin Jalaluddin, Vice Chancellor, University of Malaya and Erie Tamale, CBD.
 

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